You’re tired. You’re tired of being anxious, trying to control everything, looking for happiness outside of yourself, looking for someone else to make you happy. You’re tired of closing off your heart, playing small, turning away instead of “turning toward.” You are tired of looking and searching..and believing you are not enough — enough for your partner, children, work…whatever!
People come to me and want to know how to heal their broken hearts, relationships, bodies, and pasts. They are waking up and they realize that something needs to shift.
The answer is simple. But not always easy – for any of us.
Love heals. It’s that simple. Yet we tend to over-complicate it and look for solutions to our heart aches, worries, and problems “outside ourselves.” We busy ourselves (and exhaust ourselves) in this endless search for happiness, for feeling we are “enough”, for feeling like we belong. We try to change our bodies, thoughts, and everyone around us. We get demanding, try to control our lives and others. We get full of rage when it all doesn’t work out the way we are planning – dang it.
Yet to really shift our suffering, we have to turn inward to our own hearts and bodies. Love dispels our suffering – loving attention and spaciousness to “be” and “allow.”
This isn’t some new-age B.S. Neuroscience now supports that practices, such as loving kindness, do in fact alter how our brains fire, our reactions/responses to life’s events, and create a sense of spaciousness and happiness.
Loving kindness meditation is about returning to a deep sense of happiness – one that isn’t based on the weather systems of our emotions or the ever-changing circumstances in our lives. It’s about reconditioning ourselves from believing that happiness is “out there.” It’s about gathering all that energy spent looking for happiness and returning it to us.
Loving kindness calms the nervous system, connects us, softens us, empowers us and strengthens us. It dispels anger and resentment. It is the basis for waking up and being in healthy relationships.
Loving kindness is a concentration practice. We bring our attention back again and again to the phrases that we repeat. We practice non-judgment and gentleness. We have courage and we are disciplined.
There are many versions and different phrases that have been used over time. Here are the ones my teacher taught me. Use phrases that resonate with you.
Typically, the six different “types” of people we send loving kindness to are:
Friend/ a dear one
All living beings
Here are the phrases (again, use phrases that resonate with you). These are easy to memorize and practice anywhere, anytime:
May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.
Briefly, here is a practice you can do any time during the day:
Sit in a comfortable position.
Close your eyes or soften the eyes.
Take a few mindful breaths – in and out.
You may want imagine the in-breath as renewing and the out-breath as letting go/releasing.
Breathe into and from your heart for a few breaths.
Begin with your own self.
Repeat the phrases slowly, imagining yourself as safe, happy, healthy and living with ease.
Take breaths between each phrase.
Notice the sensations in your body as you slowly repeat each phrase.
When you start to judge yourself, tighten up, and engage in old patterns of thinking, that’s fine! Acknowledge all that. Give all that loving kindness, too. This posture of “allowing all that is” creates a lot of spaciousness.
Then move on to each person:
a benefactor (someone who has loved you, supported you. Even a pet!)
a friend (someone you know well)
a neutral person (like the clerk at the grocery store),
a difficult person (choose someone who mildly triggers you at first!)
all living beings.
Take your time.
Do the practice with mindfulness. Return to your breath as an anchor.
Acknowledge whatever arises: boredom, excitement, loving feeling, muscles tensing, muscles relaxing, anger, clinging, desire to push away. Welcome it all with kindness.
At the end, take a few mindful breaths, notice the sensations in your body, bow to your own self for having the courage to do this, and slowly return to your daily life.
Two questions I often get:
Why a neutral person? We often don’t “see the other.” This meditation wakes us up to see that all beings want the same things as we do – to feel safe, happy, healthy and living with ease.
Why a difficult person? In doing this meditation, we learn that love is not contingent upon the actions or attitude of others. We recognize that any resentment (anger, rage) we hold is causing us suffering. We recognize that we can send well wishes to others and still decide to have healthy boundaries in our relationships. We can choose to never see this difficult person again and we can still wish them safety, happiness, health, and living with ease.
This is big-time healing stuff, friends. Be gentle. Go slow. Practice often.
Questions? Ask me! I may not have the answer, but I am great at accompany folks in discovering their own truths within themselves!
A great resource I’d recommend:
Sharon Salzberg’s book, The Kindness Handbook.
This is a beautiful, simple read. It’s my “go to” book on lovingkindness. Sharon is a renowned meditation teacher.
Lisa A. McCrohan
MA, LCSW-C, RYT
** I’m a Compassion Coach. I work with folks who want to live with more delight, compassion, and connection in their everyday lives. Don’t live in Frederick, MD, or the DC area? No problema! Over the phone, skype, or in person, I offer mindful and compassion coaching. I am also a body-centered psychotherapist and yoga teacher offering individual sessions and group workshops and retreats. Visit the Barefoot Barn for more information on our services or contact me with questions, to schedule a time to talk, or learn more.